Monday, September 6, 2010

Outwit, Outplay, Outlast

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  This is the true self.  Every other identity is illusion." -Brennan Manning

I hate feeling useless.  My best days are days when I climb into bed at night and know, unquestionably, that I offered something unique and valuable to the world.  In turn, my worst days are when I can't seem to justify why I matter... why I'm still worthy of love when I didn't fill a niche or "pull my weight."  My life is like a series of Survivor episodes, and I end each day before a panel of skeptical judges who must decide whether or not I'm worth keeping around.

In our "tit-for-tat-I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine" culture, I've grown used to grounding my security in my competency.  I'm usually not the smartest person in the room - but I'm rarely the dumbest.  I'm not an expert at anything - but I'm at least average at almost everything.  And, on most days, in most situations, that's enough to convince the imaginary tribal council in my head that I deserve to stay a little longer before I'm kicked to the outskirts of society where the worthless and the marginalized go.  

And that's where my problems with God begin.  When dealing with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-complete entity, there's not much you can bring to the table.  My ability to "talk a good game" is useless in the presence of the One who created speech.  So how can I be secure in a relationship where I hold no power?  How can I be loved by someone who doesn't need me?  What do I have to have to offer when I have nothing to offer?

I've yet to figure out how this plays out in community.  On one hand, community has to be transactional on some level.  After all, somebody has to pay the bills, cook the meals, mop the floor.  If you are doing these things, you can still curl up in bed at night and say, "I matter because of XYZ."  The tribal council in your brain will be appeased for the time being.  However, I truly believe that God knows how much we struggle to grasp His non-transactional style of love and gives us community to serve as a model.  If, over time, I can see what it is to be loved collectively and indiscriminately by a group of people who still know my individual shortcomings, maybe I can begin to grasp the "furious longing of God" for His children whom he loves both personally and en masse.  Maybe I'll begin to rest in the security that, no matter what I do or how little I offer, He's not going to vote me off or cast me away.

"We unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves... But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves -- unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely." -Brennan Manning

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